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Designing an Inclusive Preschool Curriculum to Address Individual Learning Needs
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Finding the best and most appropriate curriculum for your early childhood classroom can be challenging. You may ask, "Is it comprehensive enough to cover all the content areas of learning and does it embed and integrate those across domains? Does it include a comparable assessment component? Is it broad enough to meet the needs of all of my students? Does it allow for generalization of learning styles that can be applied in multiple settings? Does it include a family component that allows parents and family members to easily take part in the learning process of their child?"

Eva Horn, Susan Palmer, Gretchen Butera and Joan Lieber have recently released the book, Six Steps to Inclusive Preschool Curriculum. In this in-depth resource, they have outlined a framework, The Children's School Success Plus Curriculum Framework (CSS+), that will provide a guide for selecting curricula that best meets the diverse needs of all students.  It provides equal access to an integrated academic and social curriculum while addressing children's individual learning needs.

Key concepts included in this framework are:
  • Inclusion-based - it supports the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) & National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) joint position paper on inclusion, which emphasizes access, participation and supports as key requirements of inclusive classrooms.
  • Active child engagement - young children construct knowledge by participating with others in activities that encourage choice making, experimenting, problem solving and reflecting.
  • Integrated curricular content - learning is incorporated into multiple areas of content and subject matter, as well as across settings and domains.
  • Intentional teaching - actively infusing learning objectives, goals, strategies and plans to be carried out in a well-thought out environment
  • Collaboration - teaming together for the purpose of sharing information, identifying individual needs of specific children in order to solve problems and address concerns, while reflecting on the results of their efforts.
  • Family as partners - recognizing the importance of family collaboration and joint decision making with those who know their child the best. 
A curriculum framework is the blueprint which guides decision making and maximizes the likelihood that all children will learn from planned activities. Horn, et al.(2016), outline six steps in the planning process of using the CSS+ framework:


 

1.    Develop/identify your scope and sequence;

2.    Determine a strategy for ensuring a coherent and integrated format;

3.    Develop activity plans to address UDL principles to support all learners;

4.    Review activity plans to address differentiation and individualization for children in the classroom;

5.    Connect progress monitoring to the scope and sequence; and

6.    Reflect on implementation for the next activity plans and for future planning.

 

In the book, the authors embed vignettes of educators who teach in a variety of inclusive early childhood settings. These scenarios are an ideal platform in which to generate group discussion with other colleagues on your team or in your community who are seeking a comprehensive framework for their inclusive classrooms. Other tools that can be used for planning purposes include the Curriculum Content Checklist, Activity Plan Form, Universal Design for Learning Guiding Questions, Embedded Learning Opportunity Activity Matrix, and tools for progress monitoring.

Navigating your way through challenging curriculum content can be daunting. However, you may find a resource such as this to be exactly what you need when planning your content for next school year.  This book is available for checkout through the TTAC at VCU library.
 
Reference:
Horn, E. M., Palmer, S.B., Butera, G.D., & Lieber, J.A. (2016). Six Steps to Inclusive  Preschool Curriculum: A UDL-Based Framework for Children's School Success. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.

Supporting Summer Reading for All Students
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Keeping students engaged in reading activities during the summer helps to prevent a loss of skills. It is important to alert parents of resources within the community to support each student's need to continue reading over the summer. Below are five tips which are easy to implement and reinforce every child's reading progress this summer.

1. Partner with the local library. Local libraries often offer summer reading programs with built-in incentives. Schools can support their efforts by advertising these free activities on all forms of social media; therefore, increasing parent awareness. If your school has additional summer reading requirements, consider holding a mid-summer gathering at the local library. 


 

2. Incentives for having a library card. At the end of the school year, advertise incentives which will be offered during September for all students who bring their library card to school. Remove the stigma of going to the library; turn it in to something everyone does!


 
3. Celebrate participation in summer reading activities.  Most schools require summer reading and as proof of completion students are required to complete a project or paper. Consider finding creative ways for students to discuss and share what they read without creating a product. Students could create a short video book talk or write a review of the book as a school blog post.


 
4. Keep the school library open during the summer. Some students may have limited access to a public library due to geography or transportation. In these cases, consider having summer library hours for the school library during summer. Some communities find it is best to do this in conjunction with the summer school schedule. 

 

5. Allow for student choice of reading material. When students self-select their own reading materials their reading skills are more likely to improve.  If offering a list is the protocol, instead of requiring certain books consider offering a list of choices (e.g.novels, graphic novels,poetry and non-fiction). Look at the range of topics covered along with the types of reading listed and consider adding the clause, "any other book as approved by ...."

 

Spotlight on Library Materials: Classroom Management: Routines and Procedures
"My students have been out of control since spring break."  "It's almost the end of the school year and I'm having difficulty with student behavior in my classroom."  If you're making these statements, it may be time to review your classroom routines and procedures.  How are students behaving during a task?  Do you need to revamp your routines and procedures?  Are you modeling and reteaching the routines and procedures for your students?  Research indicates that once routines and procedures have been established, it is good practice to monitor and analyze every two weeks to determine if the routines and procedures are effective (Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, Sugai, 2008).  Students will want to perform tasks appropriately during routines and procedures if the classroom teacher gives specific positive praise related to the task.  An excellent resource to support classroom teachers is Classroom Management that Works: Research Based Strategies for Every Teacher by Robert Marzano. This book provides comprehensive analysis of specific strategies and techniques in effective classroom management. 
 
Another excellent resource to consider for principals and leadership teams is  7 Steps for Developing a Proactive School-wide Discipline Plan by Geoff Colvin. It offers a field-tested, seven-step process for effectively preparing and implementing a school-wide behavior discipline plan that helps establish, teach, and sustain school-wide behavior expectations.
 
These books can be found in the VCU T/TAC library.  In addition, the Office of Special Education Programs offers a guide for classroom teachers called Supporting and Responding to Behavior: Evidence-based Classroom Strategies for Teachers. This guide summarizes evidence-based, positive, proactive and responsive classroom behavior intervention and support strategies for teachers.
 
Reference 
Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., and Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based Practices in Classroom Management: Considerations from Research to Practice.  Education and Treatment of Children, 31(3), 351-380.
 

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Richmond, VA 23284-3081